How Ecclesiates Can Make us Wise. Text: Eccl. 1:1-2
“Series on Living Wisely in a Meaningless Word”
By Andrew Chan, Senior Pastor, PBC, Vancouver, BC
June 3, 2001
Today a new series… on Pentecost Sunday, lives of bunch of cowardly disciples were changed forever… fearful once they were, suddenly with the coming of the Spirit as Jesus predicted bold they became. Not even fearful of death as they witness to the power of Christ and His resurrection. Life began to take on a whole new meaning for this bunch of ragged disciples of Jesus. Yet today there are any who choose unwise courses in their lives. I trust that this series will help you steer your lives and avoid many mistakes of the past and live righteous lives and live it wisely in a meaningless world. Turn with me to Eccl.1:1,2…
1 These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem.
2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless!”
Right off the bat the words get u, doesn’t it? It speaks very quickly to the human heart does it not? Could he be right? We feel those moments of tension, desperation, loneliness, pain, pressure, and in our darkest hour, we cry meaningless… all is meaningless… why try? Just the other day a pet poodle chewed off a woman’s lower lip while she slept. Can’t even trust a house pet? Who knows you may be lunch for Fifi?
According to Sharon E. Crawford in The Macon Telegraph now the victim will have to have reconstructive surgery to reconstruct her lip, using skin from her buttocks area. That’s just it, am I just a piece of meat?
Why live another day in a world where you can wake up one-day find your body parts missing? Even the Bible seems to say so! Look here it is right there in v.2. “everything is meaningless” and from a king who ruled in Jerusalem who access to everything a man ever wants, all the free time, every pleasure, at his disposal. And he says “meaningless”… Kinda do a double take and say “Yikes! I work like a dog to live like a king and now even if I reach the pinnacle of success be a king like Solomon, it ain’t quite enuff?” But isn’t the Bible about hope. Why did God allow this book to exist? Everything is meaningless? Doesn’t seem to square with the whole flavor of God’s word, does it? Oh, in our hearts we want hope, we cry for it, long for it, want it desperately.
Did not Jesus say that he has come to give life fullness and meaning in John 10:10 (NLT) “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” There must be something wrong. This feels like a Mac trying to be an IBM machine, or an orange that thinks he is a pineapple. Definite incompatible viewpoints here!!
Indeed, as famous preacher, Ray Stedman rightly calls this book “The Inspired Book of Error.” But how can God’s book, the Bible, support error, and also be accepted as inspired, truthful and real then? Listen to Stedman’s explanation:
There is no other book like it, because it is the only book in the Bible that reflects a human, rather than divine, point of view. This book is filled with error. And yet it is wholly inspired. This may confuse people, because many feel that inspiration is a guarantee of truth. This is not necessarily so. Inspiration merely guarantees accuracy from a particular point of view; if it is God’s point of view.
WHY IS THIS AN ERRONEOUS BUT INSPIRED BOOK?
A. INSPIRATION DOES NOT MEAN EVERY WORD IN THE BIBLE IS TRUE
“These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son…”(V.1) Very quickly, we know these words are of a human. It contains the observation from a man’s point of view, not from God’s but a man’s. This man is, according to tradition and from the data in the book, Solomon, King David’s son. This book was written when he was already quite old, having experienced life and tried out all sorts of things and approaches to life. He certainly had the means and the opportunity to experienced what he wrote he experienced. So what he wrote was from his observation of life… Apparently he had turned his heart away from God as recorded in 1 Kings 11:4,6 (NIV) “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been… So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.”
Furthermore, there is no strong “Thus saith the Lord” recorded in the book. Let us be aware that the Bible also records man’s point of view i.e. his speeches too– may be true may not be, also speeches of the devil too. So inspiration guarantees only an accurate reflection of the views recorded by those who made it. We know there are false views that are quoted such as speeches of Job’s friends and Satan’s twisting of God’s Word is recorded such as his speech to Eve, “You will surely not die” (Gen.3:4) in direct contradiction and twisting of “for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Furthermore, we know of countless cults and anti-God movements that have arose out of misquoting and using them as “proofs” for erroneous teaching as they wrench Scripture texts out of it divinely inspired context and all you’ll get is heresy. In fact according to Stedman this book is the favorite of atheists and skeptics because it contains lots of support for humanistic ideas. Thus, though inspired these words of Ecclesiastes may be, it is no guarantee that those are true words, in fact quite the opposite.
B. IT IS AN “UNDER THE SUN” OBSERVATION
Another thing that gives Ecclesiastes away as a book of error is this one phrase you will hear again and again, throughout the book is “under the sun.” It occurs 29 times. In 1:9 “…there is nothing new under the sun.” As he sees things on earth run an endless meaningless cycle. Nothing really changes… Based on this alone you know the writer is only considering things from a point of view that has no God in it, i.e. under the sun. This is not the usual divine revelation. It only accurately summarizes the view of this man’s view from under the sun, i.e. what he sees on the earth and not from heaven’s viewpoint. And people without much divine light, tend to see the same things as H.G. Wells, the sci-fi author, once known an optimist, ended his life in despair, said:
“There is no way out or round or through, Our universe is not merely bankrupt; there remains no dividend at all; it is not simply liquidated; it is going clean out of existence. The attempt to trace a pattern of any sort is absolutely futile.”
C. THAT LIFE IS MEANINGLESS (v.2)
Theme that life is “meaningless” quickly gives away that this book is an erroneous observation of man. This word
Occurs 35 times. If you examine this book further, this is not a book about one man’s exciting discovery of God, and purpose. He cannot see how God makes a difference in his life. He does not say much really about God – he has a “you can take it or leave it” approach to God. It is like a really heavy cheesecake, enjoyable to eat but you can leave it too, might be better for your health. You can sense the tone of the book is almost devoid of passion for life. 8:17 “then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning…” No meaning… There is a sense of uselessness in living so why try so hard… 7:16 “do not be overrighteous neither be overwise – why destroy yourself?” But wouldn’t the world be a better place, if people pursue wise and righteous things... whadaya mean don’t be overrighteous? So unlike the writings of Paul:
3 How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ. 4 Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.
6 So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. Eph.1:3-7 (NLT)
As Stedman notes re: the writer of Ecclesiastes: “There is no understanding of God as a vital, living Lord, an authority in life whom one can have a personal relationship.” That the Lord loves even before he made the world, chose us! That we are not mere products of slime and chance! That His will was always to bring us into His family! And this was a pleasure to Him, not some horrible chore or accident! YES! He wants to pour out nothing but kindness! All of this is realized because of that one concrete event traceable in annals of human history on Good Friday. No wonder Jesus says:
John 10:10 (NLT) “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”
1. Today we affirm truth of God’s Word.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17 It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do. 2 Tim.3:16-17 (NLT)
Even study of this inspired book of error is good –
a) teaches us what is true
b) make us realize what is wrong – even wisest guy, the Teacher knows something is not right
c) straightens us out and do what is right – set us on right direction
d) better equipped to handle life in an increasingly meaningless world
So we won’t be blown away as if to think that there new ways to make life meaningful, every pursuit of man has been tried and found wanting… Eccl. Teaches that. It announces to us this – Just forget about it, ya know it is futile searching for meaning and using man as center of all meaning and being – it leads nowhere fast! And until you find God, the one who created life and give it purpose, we will be in a mess! ILL. Tony Campolo said, "If you ever start to feel proud, just remember that soon after your body has been lowered into the grave, your family & friends will be eating potato salad & telling jokes, & you’ll be history."
Campolo’s words rings true because when you’re dead and gone, you’ll be history… potato salad and jokes… and u know it! But if u know God… and that He loves u, u won’t be history, you will be connected back to the Father. Are u just gonna exist and look at life then just on this planet, under the sun?
The Bible says:
These things happened to them as a warning to us. All this was written in the Scriptures to teach us who live in these last days. Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall. You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations. 1 Cor.10:11-13 (CEV)
The principle here from this passage is that God is showing us how to escape from meaninglessness and today via Ecclesiastes. If we desire not to waste time in order to be on the right track, we must learn and affirm the lesson learnt here, that life under the sun is boring and useless. That’s why God left some pretty serious lessons from some pretty serious mistakes in the past to teach us not to make the same lousy Boos Boos.
He wants to spare us the pain of going through life and at the end of it say it is all been useless, meaningless existence. So don’t waste away your precious time, energy and resources. Your life is special, worth something. Otherwise God would not have bother with Pentecost Sunday, having to send His Spirit to believers. He would have stayed home and smoked a cigar. Eccl. Reminds us how wrong we can be in our own estimation of our purpose. So we must learn today to give due consideration to God’s way, for it is the truth and make life worth living.
The truth is everything on earth is truly meaningless w/o God. As Paul said:
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage SO THAT I MAY HAVE CHRIST” Phil.3:8 (NLT).
On this Pentecost Sunday, I ask you - do u have Spirit of Christ living in you. Pentecost experience changed direction of the first disciples of Christ or are you still living meaningless, empty feeling insignificant lives. I invite you to start yielding your life to Christ, open your heart…
Eccl. Helps us to live wisely in a meaningless world because it helps us see how life without God is really about going nowhere, utterly meaningless, really bad karma if there is such a thing. Even if we have a 150-channel remote control in our hands & we’ll still be restless. Because the things of life don’t really satisfy unless you have a purpose and God’s Spirit in you.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Cor.15:58, NLT).
If you are here today, truth of this message resonates within your heart, would you please open up your heart to Christ. I believe God Spirit is saying… to give life a chance by trusting Him, receiving all of God’s promises including His promise of Spirit in you so that from today onwards you will serve Christ as your God.
God has come and revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Promises His Spirit. Will you trust Him to give you meaning and purpose. He says I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. He says I have come to give you life, life more abundantly.
Christian, maybe some of you are like Solomon, seen many things under the sun, getting discouraged, wondering if after all, that guy may be entirely right. Well, he’s wrong, look up if you have been struggling to find meaning after many years of perhaps looking to your own understanding. Pro.4:5,6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Who do you lean on when going gets tough? On day by day basis, feel like life is an endless cycle or a highway to nowhere? Our small brains cannot fathom God’s immense ways, will u just acknowledge God cares and knows, and is with you or else Jesus would have lived a meaningless life, died a meaningless death if everything really is meaningless.
Let us turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and let the things of this world grow strangely dim in light of His glory and grace. As we look at the table of the Lord and celebrate our communion with God, focus on Him will you? Renew your faith in a God who dares to say “I love you” and died for you to prove it. Who dared to put meaning behind a meaningless death of an innocent man, who dared put a stop to the endless cycle of sin, that makes you and tired, discouraged, worn out and beaten up and chewed up. He stopped the meaningless road to oblivion by promising life… Take time now and reflect…